In the midst of the controversy over whether or not Inception is a great film, filled with insight into our common experience and groundbreaking direction, or, conversely, a flat, uninspired series of well timed action sequences with hollow characters and meaningless, overtly-contrived representations of human will, there is also a lot of discussion, although less in my immediate circle, surrounding the publication of thousands of classified military documents describing, in detail, the Afghanistan war and offering a less muddled perspective than what has been regulary fed to the public through more traditional media outlets. Now, if you’re like me, you’re wondering which one to focus on during the brief moments of free action, and expression, that the daily grind offers. Well, to that I say, good luck. If you’re not like me and you happen to have more down time then I suggest reading this short sound-off on the concept of the “leak”. Although not all that interesting I think I appreciated Eskay’s quote about the inevitability of mass reproduction after a piece of media has made its initial appearance on these here networked magnets. Granted, the notion that record companies don’t know this is a bit naive, but, all the same, it is still correct and if I was a media consultant my advice would be to leverage that impulse instead of trying to fight it. In a recent NYTimes piece Rob Walker goes further into the concept of online reproduction and explores the art of going viral. I use the term art sheepishly since, as noted throughout, the process by which media spreads is being studied closely and, with a hint of desperation, marketers of fortune everywhere are trying to learn it and reproduce it on a whim. You would think that the fact that music PR departments have what is essentially a built in online media machine, where the fans are willing to do a great amount of the work, should be a point of familiarity with record executives seeing as how the unpaid internship has long been a crutch of the industry, but no, instead they run to their lawyers every time a song “leaks” (sometimes by the artist his- or herself!) and over a decade after Napster continue to overlook this opportunity to transition nicely. Granted, some record companies are coming around, what’s left of them. On a different note, what I also appreciated about the first article I mentioned is the fact that comparisons are drawn between leaking music and leaking government data. In other words, the idea that entertainment and politics are co-existing on this online plane of experience and consumption. I suppose they always have but I wonder to what extent? Have we historically interpreted them in a similar fashion? And assigned to them similar value? Back in May, a few years ago in RSS time, President Obama noted a warning about the vast amounts of information that students are exposed to via the networks and associated technological tools: “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation”. What does this mean to a person who consumes media primarily via the interwebs? Does it mean anything at all? Or, as others have argued, are the forms of consumption online just enhanced forms of our methods of consumption offline? Yes, as the President says, always accessible media “bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter.” But does this mean us consumers are thinking less critically? Does this mean that if I choose to spend my time reading about the relatively unknown Chucky Smash instead of Pakistan’s military spy servce that I am a victim of accessibility? Am I distracted?
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